First, the elephant: Let me say that we did not expect the title of our latest Pathfinder Adventure Card Society epic to be so prophetic. Year of Rotting Ruin brought gamers a sweeping torrent of plagues, economic chaos, civil unrest, and... well, anyway. Sometimes you pick a theme and sometimes the theme picks you.
With that said, I want to wrap up one of the best Adventure Paths you’ll find in our eight-year Pathfinder Adventure Card Game history. Year of Rotting Ruin was the first Pathfinder Adventure Card Society AP to use our new Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path. Coordinator Linda Zayas-Palmer, designer Keith Richmond, and storytellers Elizabeth Corrigan, Katina Davis, Jaym Gates, Steven Hammond, Ron Lundeen, Jennifer Povey, and Diego Valdez crafted an intricate and pulse-pounding series of tales. These are not the kind of tales you tell your kids. These are the kind you read with one hand in front of your face.
If you’ve finished The Dragon’s Demand and Curse of the Crimson Throne, and are wondering what to do next, here’s a travelogue through your next nightmare.
To start off, in Adventure 1: City of Sails and Shrouds, the forces of evil blew up a city. Straight up obliterated Vigil clean off the map. With the capital of Lastwall destroyed by the long-dead lich called the Whispering Tyrant, the Pathfinders faced the challenges of trying to help the citizens of the nearby city of Vellumis deal with the strife. Ron Lundeen and Linda Zayas-Palmer came up with scenario concepts that dealt with evacuations of refugees, uprisings of looters, and demonic forces stoking fear and chaos.
I’ll offer spoilers on one scenario per adventure in this blog. Scenario 1D: Treating the infection had a rude awakening for the players: You get arrested! Keith invented a delightful (to me, not to you) mechanic for how you deal with life behind bars. Good luck with that.
Also, there are sharks. Jigsaw Sharks. I don’t think there’s a card in this game whose title I love more than that.
Dealing with these problems treated the symptoms, not the cause. Vellumis was wracked with peril, but it would have to fend for itself. To save the splintering province of Lastwall, writer Steven Hammond sends our heroes far into darkness in Adventure 2: Urgathoa’s Persistent Shadow.
Scenario 2B: Spoiled Victuals features the return—and return, and return—of a card that’s been with us from the beginning: Plague Zombie. In this scenario, you really would prefer they stayed dead. It’s good to want things.
Also in this scenario, we meet the supporters Ketrik, Boors, and Moise, a trio of guards whose allegiance will become important. You decide which to rally when, and those decisions will affect your game thereafter for quite some time.
Jennifer Povey kicks off Adventure 3: Fortress of Ruin with a deeply involving harrow reading, and—spoiler alert—it doesn’t augur well.
Scenario 3B: Fear and Flame begins with a sentence I’m sure you’re thrilled about: “Add the Perils wildcard Ablaze.” It’s a scenario Keith Richmond festooned with Traps amid burning buildings. Can you run through a maze of fire to get out? I’m sure it won’t hurt much.
Hey, I mentioned there’s a lich at the heart of this Adventure Path. I’ll bet you think that means you’ll fight that lich in Adventure 6. Nope! You run into a most fearsome foe halfway through the Adventure Path. If you win—no guarantee there—what could possibly await on the other side of an undead lord?
In Adventure 4: What Stalks the Shadows, you return to Vellumis in the wake of the battle with the lich. Unsurprisingly, things haven’t gone perfectly in your absence. It seems that the Whispering Tyrant had conspirators in your city. In Diego Valdez’s story, you have to navigate a twisty road of backstabbing and betrayal.
Like for example, when all the statues take wing and ambush you. Scenario 4B: Rock and Steel features a host of Ashwing Gargoyles pounding you with rocks, and also the first (but not last) appearance of a sentence that will tempt you in ways you won’t comprehend at first: “Once each turn, you may bury a card to explore.” Let’s see if you are willing to strip down that deck to make progress. Sounds good, right? Did I mention the Ashwing Gargoyles?
Time for Adventure 5! Wait, is that a record scratch I hear?
Surprise! We dropped a totally unexpected standalone adventure in between AP chapters. In Standalone Adventure 1: A Night at Bloodthorn Manor, a group of children wander into a haunted house, and you have to get them out. The story text by Jaym Gates is fun and creepy and really weird, and I love all of it.
I mean, how confident are you when you read a note that says:
“We are safe. Daddy will take care of the bad people.”
Some confident? None confident?
I also love how Keith sets a trap for you in Scenario D: Unfinished Business. You get to choose your wildcards, one per character for this one. A six-player group starting with six wildcards had better make some careful choices.
Taking us back to the AP, Katina Davis sets the stage for the return to Lastwall and a journey to the city of Ardis in Adventure 5: Echoes of Death. The city faces an uprising of previously dead monsters as well as an assassination attempt on its noble countess. Plus, there’s a giant golem in your way. That’s a lot to handle.p>
In Scenario 5B: Race for the Cemetery, Keith asks the heretofore unasked question, “What if every location was a Graveyard?” In case you’ve blotted it out of your memory, Graveyard is the Core Set location where every monster is Undead, and closing it spawns more Undead. So if every location is a Graveyard... well, you do the math.
And look, if there’s Undead everywhere, and this whole Adventure Path centers around a long-slain lich, you probably want to re-slay the Whispering Tyrant here. Otherwise, you’ll never make it to the end of this epic quest.
All right, you’ve finally ended the threat of the Whispering Tyrant. Except... you haven’t. You still have to find his phylactery, which is the only way you can guarantee you won’t have to re-re-slay him. And that’s going to lead you to Adventure 6: Death’s Vengeance.
Lich-fighting makes strange bedfellows, so in the middle of this adventure, Elizabeth Corrigan and Keith Richmond give you one of the nastiest choices this game has ever seen: either ally with the Red Mantis assassins who promise they’re going to kill you later, or refuse their help and expect them to try to kill you now. Whether you choose to play Scenario 6C1: An Unlikely Alliance or Scenario 6C2: Backstabbed, you’ll come out of it in quite a different shape for your final boss fight.
It all ends in an arena of blood, but I won’t say any more about that. Well, except that once you’ve finished the six-course meal that is the Adventure Path proper, we tempt you with a wafer-thin mint of a bonus scenario that puts the lever controlling risk versus reward directly into your own hands. After all this, are you going to take the easy way out? (We didn’t think so.)
Year of Rotting Ruin is a big, soaring, down-in-the-muck Adventure Path. If you’re done with The Dragon’s Demand and Curse of the Crimson Throne, you owe it to yourself to pick it up. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it through alive.
Adventure Card Game Lead Designer
Ending a Year of Rotting Ruin
Friday, July 03, 2020